Review by Shady
"It's good, but it's the worst of the series..."
I have been a fan of the Tony Hawk skateboarding games since the first one was released for the original Playstation, way back in 1999. I played the first game for a countless amount of time, loving every minute of it. The second game was also great, although I didn’t feel it was as good as the first. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, however, was amazing. I played the game for hours on end, trying to get huge million point combos while unlocking some entertaining secrets. It was a blast.
After finishing the third game and after hearing so many glowing reviews on the newest installment, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 (THPS4), I bought #4 without hesitation. I was expecting a game even more awesome than before, but what I got in return was a disappointment. Tony Hawk 4 is a good game, but it’s nowhere near as impressive as its predecessors (all three of ‘em).
First things first, THPS4 is much different from the previous three games. In those games, you were given a two-minute time limit to try and complete as many goals as possible within the two minutes. It was a great formula. Tony Hawk 4 has changed that method by making you choose which goals you want to do first. Let me explain:
Once you enter a level, you start off in free skate mode. Free skate mode allows you to skate around with no goals or time limits to worry about - you’re basically free to do whatever you want. Scattered throughout the levels are various people who will give you some goals to perform. To attempt these goals, you will have to skate up to the person and then talk to them. You are then given a time limit in which you are to do that goal and that goal only. While I give Neversoft props for trying something different, I don’t care much for this new format. Finding the goals yourself makes the game much slower paced, as you start skating, stop to get a goal, then start skating again. If you ask me, the two-minute runs are better.
Whether you like the new system or not, there are still plenty of goals to be had. In fact, there are a whopping 190 goals total! There are 21 goals for each level, as well as some bonus ''pro'' individual challenges. You see, THPS4 also differs from the other games in the series in that now you can’t beat the game with one skater then play through it again with a different person. In Tony Hawk 4, you can use any skater you want at any time to achieve the 190 goals. Let’s say you play as Bob Burnquist and complete twelve goals with him. Those twelve goals will be finished for the rest of the skaters, too. The only reason to play with different skaters is to attempt the aforementioned pro individual challenges. Each skater has one individual challenge, and most of them are very tough. For example, Tony Hawk’s pro challenge is to do some tricks over a gap that increases in size after every set of tricks. By the third set, the gap is huge and takes some serious hang time to conquer. While the individual challenges are fun, I prefer the old way of unlocking stuff - beating the game with each skater.
A good portion of the game’s 190 goals are hard. Extremely hard, if you will. You will have to be able to use every technique in the game in order to complete all of the goals. Some are specifically designed for flatland tricks. Others require you to perfect the manual and revert moves. Novices to the series will definitely have a rough time with that. Even so-called THPS experts will struggle with some goals. It’s a challenging and very difficult game, that’s for sure.
Many of the familiar goals and challenges from the older games remain - collect the S-K-A-T-E letters, get a high score, ollie the magic bum, etc. There are some new types of goals, such as collecting the C-O-M-B-O letters in one huge combo, and racing on your board ''street luge'' style, but they are all used numerous times throughout the game. As I progressed further and further into the game, I began to get sick of doing variations of the same goals over and over again. Either a greater variety or fewer goals would have been nice.
The levels in Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 are enormous, to say the least. If you thought the areas in THPS3 were big, just wait until you see these ones. As soon as you begin skating in the first level, a college, you will be amazed at its largeness. However, the levels may actually be too big for their own good. Most are designed poorly and are easily forgettable. The best of the bunch is the Kona area, which is based on the real-life skate park, but even that isn’t too great. Give me the foundry, airport, or even the warehouse over the levels in THPS4 any day.
There are a couple of things in Tony Hawk 4 that were missing in the third game - the gap checklist and cash. The gap checklist makes a welcome return to the series with a ton of gaps to mess around with. The cash this time around is used to buy secrets. With enough cash, you can buy new levels, skaters, movies, decks, cheats, and articles of clothing. While requiring cash to unlock bonus stuff is a great idea, it would have been nice to be able to unlock more stuff. There are only two levels, three skaters, and four or five movies to unlock. The cheats are lame, and the decks and clothing are pretty much useless. The idea’s great, but the rewards are sub par.
Other than the main 190-goal career mode, there are a few other modes of play to mess around with. For one, the popular ''create-a-park'' ''create-a-skater'' modes are still in the game. Although many love these two options, I don't think they aren’t as good as they could be. Quite frankly, the create-a-park mode is a waste. You are given the choice between four different ''themes'', but the themes are all basically small fenced-in square areas with different surroundings outside of the fence. It’s not much different from the one featured in Tony Hawk 2.
The create-a-skater mode, while slightly improved from the third game, is still disappointing. Even though I am about as plain as a person can look, I found it difficult to create a realistic replica of myself in the game. It’s still easy to make a cool-looking skater, but it will probably be next to impossible for you to make yourself.
One of the greatest aspects found in all of the Tony Hawk games is the incredibly fun multiplayer mode. All of the multiplayer staples are here - trick attack, graffiti, horse, slap, and king of the hill - as well as some new games - score challenge (trick attack with no time limit) and combo mambo (highest combo wins). Just like THPS3, there is an option to play online as well. There are some online-only multiplayer games, but unfortunately I never had the chance to play online. Every time I would attempt to connect, the game would freeze on me. I’m not sure what is causing this bug, but I wish I could play the game online. After all, there’s nothing like schooling someone else from across the country in a trick attack.
The game’s controls are as easy to use as ever. The game’s lone new move, the spine transfer, requires just a simple push of a shoulder button to execute. Pulling off tricks is simple, but successfully landing them requires practice. In fact, the best way to improve in the game is practice, practice, and more practice. Mastering the controls is essential.
Visually, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is good, but not great. Although everything is far more polished than THPS3, it is also far more ''glitchier''. What I mean by that is that the camera will mess up quite often. I never had a problem with the camera in previous games, but in THPS4 it is a nuisance. If you hit a wall, your skater will get stuck on the wall and the camera will swing wildly. Sometimes the camera will focus in too much on your skater and cause some severe clipping to show up on screen. While these problems don’t occur all the time, they happen enough to warrant mentioning. Other than those nasty glitches, the game looks fine - animations are fluid, and everything looks realistic. It’s a shame that the game was released with those glitches though.
The game’s music is decent at best. There are a handful of good songs, including ''Shimmy'' by System of a Down, ''Express Yourself'' by N.W.A., and ''Anarchy In The U.K.'' by The Sex Pistols, but there are several songs I could have done without. Most of the rap/hip-hop on the soundtrack is terrible, especially the songs performed by Chad Muska’s band ''Muskabeatz''. What’s worse is that Neversoft threw in three Muskabeatz songs. At least there’s an option to remove songs from the play list. The game’s sound effects are solid, and the voice acting done by the ''goal-givers'' is well done. The music soundtrack could have used some work, but on a whole the sound isn’t too bad.
In the end, I did enjoy Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4, just not as much as the first three games. The many changes that Neversoft made to the game’s career mode are a nice change of pace, but ultimately I prefer the old way of doing things. I would have liked better levels, improved ''create-a'' modes, and less glitches, but even with those problems Tony Hawk 4 remains a good game. If I were you though, I would save $30 and buy Tony Hawk 3 instead. THPS3 is only $20 now compared to THPS4’s $50, and #3 is an all-around better game anyway. Neversoft is said to be taking a year off in making Tony Hawk 5, and that’s a good thing. Who knows, maybe in 2004 we’ll finally get the perfect skateboarding game.
Best Feature - Massive career mode, fun multiplayer.
Worst Feature - I would say the glitches annoyed me most.
Reviewer's Rating: 3.5 - Good
Originally Posted: 04/02/03, Updated 04/02/03
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